Memorable Holidays

Poor Jackie set off in driving rain, propelled by gales of more than 40 m.p.h,. for her annual camping trip this morning. She and her two sisters will have needed all their Girl Guides experience just to pitch their tent. Even that failed them, for the tent blew across a field and tore. They are now enjoying glamping in a yurt.

Bluebell and tellima saxifrage

In the battered garden a sturdy bluebell, itself sheltered by geranium leaves, props up a drooping tellima saxifrage.

Viola

Looking on the bright side, it falls upon me to keep the hanging baskets damp over the next few days. This viola demonstrates that I will be receiving a bit of help from above.

Before taking a cab to Lymington Hospital for a check-up on my hand, I scanned and returned to my photo albums some more of the prints Elizabeth has returned to me.

In the summer of 1982 we enjoyed a holiday with Ann and Don in a gite in Southern France. Sam 1982 014Sam certainly enjoyed this choc-ice. He probably licked the nut off the corner of his mouth.

One of the most memorable moments of this holiday was the return journey. Ann had decided she may have exceeded her tobacco allowance, so Jessica and I carried a quantity of our friend’s cigarettes in our car. We followed Ann and Don off the ferry. They waved as they drove off into the sunset. We were stopped and our yellow Renault was subjected to a full body search

1n 1983 we had another French holiday, at the delightful chateau of the Vachette family in Fontaine. The game of Scrabble is my lasting memory from that vacation.Louisa 1983

By then Louisa was toddling and drinking from her own indestructible cup. Here she stands, ebullient as ever, displaying  her baby teeth, in the carved wooden doorway of this splendid eighteenth century building.

That same year Ann and Don were in the throes of refurbishing an old cottage on the Welsh hillside near Cerrigidrudion that was to be their home for nineteen years. We therefore rented a house from a neighbour so we could again spend some time with them.Matthew and Sam 1983

For me, the joy of holidaying all together with the four youngest children was always memorable. Matthew and Sam clearly shared this, as the delighted little brother was plonked on the back of a nonchalant cow too busy chomping the grass to notice.

Bee on libertia

By mid afternoon, as I waited for my taxi, the rain had stopped, and the sun had emerged, but the wind persisted. Bees do not leave their nests when it is wet, but one or two intrepid ones battled to hold their own with the gusts, and flitted, inevitably disappointed, from libertia to libertia in an apparently vain search for nectar. The unfortunate creatures couldn’t get a grip.

Galleon Taxis operate an efficient service out of New Milton Station forecourt, but were unable to transport me at my hoped-for time, because it clashed with their school run. I therefore arrived at the hospital with an hour and a half to wait. This did not bother me because I had the poems of Robert Frost for company, when I was not engaged in enjoyable conversation with a gentleman whose wife was being treated. As a keen birder, he advised that the starlings building nests behind the fascia board of our kitchen extension, and the jackdaws dropping their nesting materials down our chimney needed to be dissuaded from doing so. Apparently the starlings don’t use their old homes when they return each year, but just build a new one alongside them; and the jackdaws drop twigs down the chimneys until they become lodged, like a pot-holer negotiating his cave chimney. Then they build the nests.

Incidentally, Galleon, in the list of useful telephone numbers left by our predecessors, appears as Valium, which didn’t really cause me any anxiety.

Jackie has left me a wide range of cooked meals to consume whilst she is away. This evening I settled for a reprise of yesterday’s easy beef stew, resuscitated in the microwave; and another glass of the Madiran.

Losing Control

12th July 2014 Westminster BridgeCrowd on South BankI began the day by posting yesterday’s entry. This afternoon Jackie drove me to New Milton where I boarded the train to Waterloo for a trip to Shampers, Simon Pearson’s wine bar in Kingly Street, where Michael was holding his second 50th birthday celebration. To walk my normal route to Green Park, turn right along Piccadilly, cross this thoroughfare into Air St, turn left up Regent St, and right then left into Kingly St, on a Saturday afternoon in midsummer, is definitely not to be recommended unless you are intent on recording the experience. But I was. So I did. The walk along South Bank and up the steps onto and then across Westminster Bridge was like taking on the combined international rugby forwards of the Six Nations and those of the Southern Hemisphere.Motor boatCruise ship A packed speedboat sped under the bridge while cruise ships unloaded one herd of passengers and took on board another.Selfies Tourists were wielding every kind of device capable of taking photographs, a good number of them being selfies, two of the subjects of which claimed to be Absolutely Fabulous, and the other Knight Style.Crossing Closed sign No-one appeared to see the huge notices closing the crossings at Whitehall and Palace St instructing people to use the underpasses. But perhaps that was just for runners in the 10k run that featured in the small print.Crowds in St James's ParkLovers St James’s Park was a little easier, but still packed with people lovingly basking in the sunshine.Meadow and fountainHeron

Motionless herons kept an eye out for prey from the lake.Crowd in Regent Street

Sculpture and observerToy planesTable tennisPiccadilly and Regent St were almost as crowded as Westminster Bridge.

In Aire St a group were perched on the pavement sketching the view of Regent St through an arch. Having arrived at the venue 90 minutes early, I walked around the corner and sat for a while in Golden Square where two low-flying aircraft had come to grief; spectators communed with the sculpture; and table tennis was in progress.

The assembled company at Shampers were Michael, Heidi, Alice, Emily and her boyfriend Sam; Louisa and Errol; Mat and Tess; Eddie and his wife Rebecca; and two other friends whose names I can’t recall, but whose faces I know well.

Eddie is Michael’s lifelong friend who often stayed with us in Soho in the 1970s, as, of course, did Matthew and Becky. It was natural with that grouping to recount Soho stories. One I haven’t featured before is the tale of the mechanical digger. One afternoon I was horrified to peer out of our first floor window and see one of these clanking its steady way across the yard, its grabber reaching out like something from ‘War of the Worlds’. The cab was empty. Michael and Matthew were vainly attempting to bring it to a halt. I am not sure who reached up and turned it off. Perhaps it was me. This evening Mat revealed that this parked municipal vehicle had been started with the birthday boy’s front door key. Then things began to teeter out of control.

This narrative prompted Eddie, who had also stayed in many other places with us, to confess about the ride-on mower in Wootton Rivers. He had apparently gone for a ride on this sometime in that same decade, had approached the church, lost control, and crunched the stone wall. Eddie’s recollection is that the wall was undamaged, but that the mower was rather crumpled. It still worked, however, so the miscreant parked it in the garage and hoped that Jessica’s father would not notice.

Eddie’s optimism was not entirely misplaced, as was demonstrated by Matthew’s next story. The owner of the mower, you see, was not exactly in complete command of his vehicle. One day our son was playing in the garden with a group of Pearson cousins. Suddenly panic, and cries of ‘Clear the lawn, everything off the lawn’, set in. Small and medium sized children rushed to and fro, hither and thither, grabbing toys, balls, you name it. ‘And Louisa’, someone yelled, and scooped up the crawling infant. It was then that Matthew saw the mower hove into view. ‘The beach ball’, someone shouted.

Too late. The mower steamed over and flattened the large round beach ball. It is believed that the driver remained unaware of the tragedy.

These, and many other stories were enlivened by various excellent wines chosen by Eddie, the professional. I was particularly taken with the chilled Brouilly.

The food was superb, My starter was squid, followed by grilled sardines, chips, and salad, some of which Louisa snaffled. I had to desert the party before the cheese and dessert.Piccadilly Circus

I walked back to Piccadilly Circus and took the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo, and thence to New Milton and from there home by a Galleon taxi.

Sitting opposite me on the train from Waterloo were a young Chinese woman attempting to sleep, and an older Englishwoman attempting to talk. I returned the conversation for a while then indicated my desire to return to my book. Soon peace reigned as my companions slept. They departed at Southampton Central, but very soon afterwards I had to abandon the book, as the train filled up to capacity, and a drunken, acknowledgedly ‘chatty’ young man full of Jameson’s sought to entertain us all. Giving up, I closed ‘December’ by Elizabeth H. Winthrop.

The taxi firm is to be recommended. They operate from a shed outside New Milton station.